S1E16 – How to do sales prospecting for your B2B SaaS With Rob Harlow

What is sales prospecting?

And are you doing it right in your SaaS? In today’s ever-competitive SaaS industry, you must perform sales prospecting correctly to realize maximum growth. In this episode, we host a self-declared “Natural Geek” Founder, Investor, and Late Night Innovator Rob Harlow.

Why you need to listen to Rob: He is a specialist in social Prospecting and has seen his company’s Outbase grow tremendously year on year. Rob has access to a massive database of over 20 million prospects across 70 countries worldwide. As an industry leader in prospecting in the UK, their annual report, The State of Prospecting, is now a highly sought-after benchmark for Prospecting and optimization.

link to spotify episode with Rob Harlow, how to do sales prospecting for your b2b SaaS.

What is Prospecting?

Rob defines Prospecting as finding the right person in the right organization to determine that your product or service offering perfectly fits. He argues that Prospecting is an everyday function that every salesperson in an organization has undertaken or has become versed with. Prospecting has grown more sophisticated in the digital space with the advancement in technology. As such, companies can leverage more significant amounts of data and utilize various automated processes. Rob identifies three aspects as the main areas of Prospecting: researching, identifying, and engaging.

Importance of Prospecting to SaaS Companies

In addition to product-led and sales-led growth, B2B SaaS companies require sales prospecting to match their ideal customer profile precisely. As an outbound strategy, Prospecting enables a B2B SaaS to scale its sales and marketing efforts. Our guest advises that a company should place prospecting at the center of the sales process, given today’s digital capabilities.

Minimum requirements for prospecting at a company

Our guest expert says that a company needs to have a functional CRM in place before starting the prospecting function. The CRMs serve to manage incoming leads and customer conversations properly. In addition, having a well-documented sales process is crucial because it makes the prospecting campaign a success.

Common mistakes companies make in Prospecting

Rob points out that most companies need a sound technical setup to enable a successful prospecting effort. Given that emailing is also an integral part of Prospecting, the functionality of the messaging tools is crucial. An extensive target group also results in messaging that does not appeal to everyone, thus failing Prospecting. It is important to send emails to reach the right target accounts.

Main takeaways from The State of Prospecting 2023 Report: From their findings, emailing is the most preferred and effective marketing channel for B2B SaaS marketers. Also, they found that the degree of noise in terms of emails in prospects’ inboxes is on the rise. In this regard, it is crucial to ensure accuracy and personalization in the email messaging to capture the prospect’s attention. Another key takeaway from the report relates to the growing redundancy of open rates as metrics in Prospecting.

Effectiveness of the email as a market channel

Rob explains that their findings from surveys and questionnaires consistently indicate an unshaken email preference. In terms of cost per lead, he attributes email to cost per lead is about 40 percent of a paid ad. Similarly, data on cost for acquisition indicate that conversion rates are often higher given the previous email conversation to build customer interest.

Strategies for Effective Prospecting

Our guest expert says that it is crucial for a company undertaking a prospecting campaign to identify the right ICP and understand their pinpoints. Further, it helps to leverage the right technological tools to find leads. In this respect, he advises that you may use competitor and your own tools to find the leads. Also, a B2B SaaS should use intent data to target prospects and craft your messaging precisely and in personalization with moderation.

Rob forecasts that artificial intelligence is bound to play a key role in the future of Prospecting. He sees humans and technology getting increasingly better at filtering. This translates to the importance of having a sound technological setup in place, which will only increase because the danger domain reputational damage will be greater. Further, Prospecting will balloon into a multi-channel marketing strategy, involving going beyond messaging and keeping the prospect in mind through different avenues. As such, tracking the ICP will become an increasingly B2B buying process to understand customer behavior.

 Advice to SaaS company with 10K MRR

Robin recommends that early-stage founders engage with the customers about their purchase decisions. Then they should utilize the customer feedback to devise an effective product strategy. Further, a startup SaaS should work on its product-fit challenge to increase its sales and grow its monthly recurring revenue beyond 10K.

Advice to SaaS company with 1M ARR

Our guest expert advises that a B2B SaaS should seek to have an effective, repeatable, documented sales process. Using a professional sales team, the company should focus on predictability and forecasting in sales to manage the churn rate. Generally, Rob underscores the need for a B2B to engage its customers, have repeatable sales, and have good partnerships.

Image embed of spotify episode with Rob Harlow, how to do sales prospecting for your b2b SaaS.

Key Time Codes

  • (0:08) Introduction of topic and guest
  • (1:11) Why you need to listen to Rob:
  • (2:15) What is Prospecting
  • (5:19) Importance of Prospecting to SaaS Companies
  • (7:00) Minimum requirements for prospecting at a company
  • (9:23) Common mistakes companies make in Prospecting
  • (14:30) Main takeaways from The State of Prospecting 2023 Report
  • (18:50) Effectiveness of the email as a market channel
  • (21:16) Strategies for effective Prospecting
  • (25:40) Future Trends in Prospecting
  • (32:35) Advice to SaaS company with 10K MRR
  • (34:03) Advice to SaaS company with 1M ARR
  • (36:05) Rob’s contact information


Intro to Rob Harlow

00:30  – Joran Hofman
Welcome back to another episode on the Grow your B2B SaaS podcast. Our goal with this podcast is to help you grow your B2B SaaS. When you want to grow your SaaS, you will need to do prospecting in some way. This can mean many different things and you can do it in many different ways. We’re going to talk today about how to do sales prospecting right. My guest is Rob Harlow

Rob is the co-founder and CINO Chief Innovation Officer at Outbase and he calls himself a natural geek. He sold his first website on the age of twelve, has coded over 20 years and in 30 different coding languages. When you combine his technical skills with his business leadership experience, it allows him to build technology which solves problems, reduce cost and improve performance. With his company outbase, they have access to data, a lot of data. 

01:22  – Joran Hofman
With data from 49.5 million emails, insights of over 350 sales and marketing professionals, they are able to gain a lot of insights. He’s able to tell us what works and what doesn’t in sales prospecting. So, without further ado, welcome to the show Rob. 

01:40  – Rob Harlow
Thanks Joran, great to be here. 

01:42  – Joran Hofman
If people are not convinced about that intro about you, why should people listen to you today? 

01:46  – Rob Harlow
Rob good question. They’ll probably focus on what we’ve done here at outbase and really outbase as part of the Sopro Group, which was a company set up back in 2015, really to specialize in social prospecting, primarily email prospecting.

Since then, using Sopro as one of our primary market channels, we’ve doubled in size year on year and yeah, have worked with over 3000 clients, 65 different industries in 70 different countries, engaging with over 20 million prospects across those countries and really working hard to establish ourselves at the forefront of prospecting in the UK. 

Most recently, we started publishing annual report called The State of Prospecting, which lines of incestu to be used as the benchmark for prospecting results and optimization across the entire industry. 

What is prospecting? 

02:39  – Joran Hofman
I actually read a report and I do have some questions regarding that coming up in this podcast. But let’s start with the real basics. What does prospecting mean to you? Can you explain prospecting in your own words? 

02:52 – Rob Harlow
It’s good question. It’s often seen as something that looks quite new. Really prospecting has been around for as long as sales in its simplest form is just finding the right person in the right company that your product or service can solve a pain point for and reaching out to them, contacting them. Over the years, the approach to achieving this has become way more sophisticated. 

At its core is a process that every salesperson ever has done and would really come naturally and they would gravitate towards. I guess today prospecting is much more digital. It gives you the opportunity to take advantage of way more data points. We could build far more efficient and automated processes and really email sits at the heart of this. 

There’s probably three core parts to any prospecting process, which is research. You need to know the pain points that your product or service solves and the next step is to figure out who it solves those for. 

03:49  – Rob Harlow
Yeah, if you take Registers, for example, it’s a great platform for managing partnerships. It addresses actually quite different challenges for someone that’s totally new to the world of B2B partnerships versus someone that’s been in the world for a while. They’ve got spreadsheet full of partners and they need help managing them. Actually, you can’t approach those two people in the same way and so it’s essential during your research phase to identify those different people. 

It’s identify you actually need to the types of people you want to talk to and the types of companies, the next steps to find them. There’s loads and loads of places to do this. There’s a number of specialist data aggregators which can really help move beyond demographic filters back to the Registers example. You might want to find people in specific industries, but maybe they’re using competitor products or showing other signs of needing a partnership program and really prospecting part. 

04:40  – Rob Harlow
The contacting, or what we call engage is the final step and in some ways the easier one. Once you’ve done your research and identification properly, then reaching out with the right message should yield some pretty strong results. 

04:53  – Joran Hofman
Nice to summarize that research, identify and prospecting, and I think you mentioned it already, you need to know the pain points. You need to know who to reach out. I think this is the common red line in all the podcasts we’ve been recording so far. You need to know your ideal customer profile, your ICP, and what you’re actually trying to solve with your product. 

05:13  – Rob Harlow
Absolutely. I think the more detailed you can get with that, the better. One of the real common mistakes we see time and time again is trying to go out with one message to everybody or a really general message to groups of ICPS. Whereas in reality you’ve got to be super specific because you only get that first sentence for someone to read and resonate with. Otherwise they just ignore the email. 

Why should you care about sales prospecting?

05:38  – Joran Hofman
I’m going to ask one more question regarding the basis because you now have, of course, a product led growth, customer led growth. Why should B2B SaaS companies, actually need to care about doing sales prospecting? 

05:50  – Rob Harlow
All of these things, product led growth or inbound marketing is great and we run plenty here. We try and maximize all marketing channels. However, in reality, not all of your prospective customers are going to come looking for you. If you’re really going to scale sales and marketing, particularly at the start, you’re going to need to effectively deploy an outbound strategy. And again, it’s not something that’s new. The difference now is just that if you roll back seven years, sales rep will be doing this process manually. 

They’d be spending a lot of time on it, they’d be making phone calls manually, sending emails. People take spending 60% of their time prospecting to spend 40% of pitching. Whereas the ability to have it in a much more automated fashion these days should really put it at the heart of your sales process. I think it makes sense, right? 

06:36 – Joran Hofman
Because you can’t sometimes start with another growth channel if you actually have your first clients. You will need to indeed, if you want to scale, you need to deploy some kind of outbound strategy to at least get the first clients in. If that works, you can scale it. 

06:49 – Rob Harlow
Absolutely. I’d never really recommend it being your sole channel, but in terms of talking to customers, getting feedback and bringing those first few customers on, it’s undoubtedly going to be the cheapest route to market. 

What needs to be in place before you can start prospecting?

06:59 – Joran Hofman
We’re going to talk about prospecting, of course, how to do it right. You already kind of mentioned it. Like I wanted to ask, when do you start with prospecting? You mentioned like you need to do the research, you need to identify and then you can start with prospecting. Let’s dive in research and identify what needs to be in place before you really can start prospecting. 

07:17 – Rob Harlow
In some ways the prospecting is the easy part and the key is managing the leads as they come in. Effective prospecting campaign will run over a number of weeks, potentially even a number of months. There’s an exponential increase in the number of leads and the number of responses and the number of potential clients that you’re going to be talking to. 

That can get surprisingly busy surprisingly quickly and managing those leads and those customers and conversations properly is essential. Some of the things that need to be in place before kicking off prospecting are CRM. A surprising number of people we work with don’t have a CRM and a free HubSpot account can be life changing. It’s fantastic and really does everything as needed. Sales process documented. Sales process is again really important. First few leads come in, it’s nice, you have some good conversations and it’s easy. 

08:09 – Rob Harlow
You roll that forward four weeks but all of a sudden you’re preparing service. All this and the pros and for those first few customers and new pitches are coming in, it gets a lot more complex and having a written down sales process to refer to that really helps. There’s some real core steps that you need to take advanced prospecting campaign every single response. If you’re sending 100 emails, you’re getting 10% people bonding this, that’s ten every single day. All of a sudden over the course of a week, you spend a lot of time replying to people as a having that written down process as to how to do that. Trapped in the CRM is what will actually make your prospecting campaign thrive. 

08:46 – Joran Hofman
This goes back also one of the other podcasts we had where we talked about the sales that approach or creating like the sales process as in you need to create demand instead of trying to sell things. Even with the message you’re going to send out, you need to sell, of course, the value. What kind of things you’re trying to solve, the pain points you’re trying to solve and who do you need to reach out to is really important. 

09:06 – Rob Harlow
Yeah, absolutely. 

Common mistakes made while prospecting

09:07 – Joran Hofman
I mentioned it in the intro, you mentioned it afterwards. You guys have a lot of data. You mentioned it, you wrote a white paper, the State of Prospecting 2023. There’s a lot of insights in that paper. We’re going to share it of course in the show notes. Let’s talk about a couple of things which are in there. What are the most common mistakes you see companies make while prospecting? 

09:28 – Rob Harlow
I probably should put these into two categories. The first one is technical setup. Actually the world of email is always been busy, it’s getting busier and if you don’t have the right technical setup, then any prospecting campaign is doomed from day one and it can get quite advanced. You need to be sending from email accounts with good reputation on a domain with good reputation. There’s lots of fairly complex DNS authentication processes, DKIM, SPF, DMark that need to be set up. If any of these are not set up correctly, then getting your email into the inbox is just not going to happen. 

Similarly, the actual content of the email from a technical point of view just needs to not look like a marketing email. We’re not talking HTML shiny graphics here, we’re talking one to one emails that you would send to a person. I think there’s often a tendency to overcomplicate this and write an all singing or dancing email rather than actually just a conversational approach exactly as you would if you were meeting someone for the first time. 

10:29 – Rob Harlow
Yes, and most of those technical are really not tick boxes. Actually. We get them wrong, they can completely caribbet a campaign. Again, you get them right, those boxes are ticked and everything from that point comes down to half. Not about pain points, but very much onto that messaging around the pain points. Having too broader targeting is really the number one cause of campaigns just not working. There’s so many filters that can be used. They’re going to be talking to different industries in different ways. Different company sizes, different people within different company sizes, even drilling down to how you would talk to different job titles in different companies. 

For example, a marketing manager in a company that’s under ten employees is quite likely to be a senior decision maker. Whereas in a company of 500 employees, a marketing manager may well not be anywhere near as senior just but not treating those two demographic points in the same way you’re going to get messaging that doesn’t resonate with one or both. 

Do you use your own domain for sales prospecting? 

11:27 – Joran Hofman
Of them all comes down again to your ICP. Definitely make that set that up correctly. I do have one question also regarding the technical setup like you mentioned needs to be correct. Do you recommend companies to use their own domain for prospecting generally? 

11:41 – Rob Harlow
No, it’s totally possible to use our own domain, we use our own domain. However, one of the key things is natural looking email volumes. If you’re a small company and you’re receiving ten emails a day, it doesn’t look that natural to be sending 50 emails outbound. Whereas we have 300 people here now and a huge amount of email activity going on. Sending some outbound email actually looks totally natural. At the same time, we’d recommend this as a best practice to use a separate domain for any marketing activity, specifically prospecting. There’s no difference to that with email accounts for each sales agent set up. It is not a case of sending huge amounts, it’s about sending what is a natural amount of emails, ramping those up carefully so that the domain gets warmed up properly and just monitoring it really closely over time. 

12:32 – Joran Hofman
I think that’s really important. As you mentioned, inbox deliverability is the most important thing. Of course you can send a lot of emails, but if it doesn’t land inbox, then it’s no use. We experienced it ourselves. We had a month where I think we sent 80,000 emails. We did purchase like new domains. We set up everything up technically, but if the domain isn’t warmed up properly, we’ll hit spam pretty quickly. You can buy a new domain again and do the exact same thing, but it is a bit of a hassle. Doing it right and building things up as you said is probably the better way to go here. 

13:03 – Rob Harlow
Yeah, ever since day one worked really hard to try and establish benchmarks both internally and externally because that’s your first indicator that something’s not right. As a rule of thumb, if you’re sending emails and you’re not getting 8% response rate and of those maybe between 30 and 40% of those are not positive, something’s wrong. Doesn’t necessarily mean that your technical sets up. Again, it could be the messaging, it could be the targeting, but where the tendency is always to just look at the results and go what would happen if I sent 100 times more email? Will I get 100 times more results? Rarely the answer it’s always the case of then going, let’s figure out how we get to those benchmarks. Because as you’ve experienced, you just burned through domains and email accounts for very little results. 

The top 5 key findings from the state of prospecting report 2023

13:48 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. We’re going to keep talking about the report you guys have built. What are the top key findings from the report from the State of Prospecting 2023? 

13:58 – Rob Harlow
I think probably one of the really interesting ones that we’re obviously convinced of is always worth highlighting is email is still the most performant marketing channel across B2B market. I’ve lost track of how many email is dead posts I see on LinkedIn or Twitter, and it seems there’ll be a flurry of these every single year dating back for the last 15 years. I think when Gmail first came out was the first time I started to notice these and it’s just not the case. 

Email is the most performant channel and it’s one that not only marketers want to be using, but also prefer to receive information on. That’s just consistently affirmed by every single questionnaire we do with obviously clients and non clients. Probably another really important one, which is, I guess, changing over time. Is there’s an increasing amount of noise? As with any marketing channel, yet something that’s new seven years ago is no longer new now, and there is an increasing amount of noise. 

14:57 – Rob Harlow
People are getting an increasing number of emails and it’s so much more important to be accurate and relevant. You could get into the inbox, however, the attention span of the recipient is just, it’s nothing like it used to be three or four years ago. If you don’t capture someone’s imagination within that first sentence, that’s it, you’ve gone either into the bin best case or into the span worst case. This always kind of tracks onto one of the other points around personalization, where the invitation is always something we’ve really focused on. A very consistent stat that comes out is the performance versus number of personalization points in an email. I always find this a really interesting one personally, because it’s easy to assume that more personalization equal better, and it’s just not the case. Actually, beyond three to four points of personalization, we actually see a decrease in performance. 

15:49 – Rob Harlow
When you actually work through the raw data, it’s really clear that it’s very difficult to naturally personalize an email beyond three to four points. I’m sure you all seem ones where it’s like, hi yoran, in your job as founder and CEO at Redis, at the end of it’s just shoehorning in that job title in a way that no one would actually write it to you. And really understanding personalization is key. Personalization isn’t about getting data points pasted into an email, it’s about going, right, you’re in a senior role, you’re likely very busy, I’m going to give you two slots in three to four working days and those time slots being personalized it’s about, again, understanding your pain point and your industry. It’s really just about making things conversational and genuinely personalized to you rather than the data that we know about you. One other thing I would pull out, which we mentioned in the report, but it’s absolutely going to be a feature that has been in our internal benchmarking for the last more than a year and moving forward is the substantive open rates. 

16:52 – Rob Harlow
Open rates are almost redundant metric these days with the advent of Apple privacy and of third party image blocking. Gmail web client being another example of this. Open rates are best, misleading or worst, just not a metric worth looking at. We see lots and lots of people report open rates of 75% or 80% and it’s just not the case. The benchmarks to focus on really always are that response rate or yeah, and we always do that in a correlation between response rate and open rate. The key takeaway there is just open rates are no longer a metric of much value in any of them. Prospecting. 

17:36 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, I can definitely imagine because if indeed the emails are automatically being opened by Apple or not being shown that they’re being opened, then it doesn’t make sense to start reporting on that anymore. 

17:46 – Rob Harlow
Exactly the first point. 

Why is email still a high-performing marketing channel?

17:49 – Joran Hofman
You mentioned email is still the most performant marketing channel, I guess. What do you mean with performing? Are you, for example, looking at customer acquisition cost or the amount of leads you’re able to generate? You mentioned people will still want to be contacted via email, I guess. What do you define? How is it best performing still in. 

18:07 – Rob Harlow
Every way we’ve managed to measure it and there are three specific ways that we’ve looked at. One is survey based, what is the channel you would most likely to be like to be contacted on? Email always performs very strongly, but the core ones around performance are cost per lead. Cost per acquisition? Cost per lead is something that we survey cross our clients and also across some non clients as well to try and get a balance. Yeah, email cost per lead consistently comes out around 40% of the cost of a paid search lead. For example, when we talk about a lead here, we try and make this a sales qualified lead rather than a marketing qualified lead. 

Effectively a cost per pitch is the right analogy, but yeah, consistently performs the best cost per acquisition. We do have a slightly smaller data set because there’s sometimes sensitive information that goes in clients releasing that. 

19:00 – Rob Harlow
However, because we have a very broad range of clients that we’ve got several hundred active clients at any given time. Again, it’s something we track quite closely with them. We have web plugins that go on their site and they’re very open with their overall cost per acquisition across channels and how email stacks up to that. 

19:18 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, and I can imagine the conversion rates might be higher just because you already had a conversation before. You’re going to talk with them because you had that conversation over email and then you might set up the follow up meeting so they’re a bit more, how you say, engage with you already before taking the call. 

19:35 – Rob Harlow
Yeah, absolutely. There’s often quite a bit more information that we know because even though it’s two or three emails back and forward, there are shuttle bits of information which set that call up. Meaning that an all good salespeople flex for this. The way you would talk to someone who has initially been the recipient of a prospecting email and had a couple of email play before, it is very different to someone who’s just come along thought this looks interesting. Filled out a demo form on the site and potentially has slightly less information about what you do, but a different type of intent. 

Processes and strategies to use while doing sales prospecting

20:05 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, exactly. Well, taking these key findings in mind, are there any strategies, processes you can share with our listeners today which they can use to do prospecting? 

20:18 – Rob Harlow
Right, I’m going to sound like a broker record, but starboy identify the right customers. The reason we’d really labor on this point is that go back a few years, LinkedIn was the one place that everyone would go and be like, right, I want to contact CEOs founders in this industry, in these companies, in these countries. Great, that’s my campaign. Over time, not only has the ICP become more sophisticated, but the number of data points available have become more sophisticated. It could be based on technologies that a company uses to build their systems. We’ve had campaigns with companies specializing in COBOL and Fortran and old programming technologies and you’re trying to identify companies that use those. It’s not something you’d find on LinkedIn. Similarly, it might be companies that use particular types of CRM. If your product is a salesforce plugin, you don’t want to be trying to promote the services to non salesforce customers, for example. 

21:17 – Rob Harlow
There’s a whole raft of other intent based data. Yeah, we identify things like companies that be in the news, whether if someone has won an award, great. It feels way more natural to mention that award in the email rather than not. There’s what we call fermographic intent, where you can identify companies who are at slightly different stages in their life cycle by what’s going on at the company. If someone’s just recruited a CMO or another senior marketing person or is growing their marketing department, then actually they’re quite likely to be looking at changing vendors or new agencies or increasing spend on marketing channels and tailoring the messaging around. That really helps with being relevant. I think the second part of that is personalization. It’s an interesting time for personalization GPT. It has changed the game. I think this too was irresponsible usage of it and I saw you do it. 

22:22 – Rob Harlow
I receive emails every day where my LinkedIn headline has definitely been fed into a GPT prompt. The intro to an email is just unnatural. It’s talk about it always are. The intro to this I know as a natural gig who can write in 20 languages and it’s just not the way so it is personalized and it is unique for each person, but it’s just not the way that you would actually talk to someone. I guess that my takeaway from that would be really focus on personalization. They treat it with caution because that uncanny valley feeling when someone receives an email, it doesn’t look quite right, is a really low bar. And another non GPT is company name. The Sopro company name on LinkedIn is So Pro Hyphen Social Prospecting. If someone uses that in an email, that’s it, they’ve gone. It’s just instantly obvious that it’s been written by a machine versus if they say sopro. 

23:17 – Rob Harlow
So, yes, it’s never about more personalization, it’s about really taking the time to go through your data, make sure your data is accurate and looks natural because. 

23:26 – Joran Hofman
Otherwise all the effort you did before is basically going to be useless. 

– Rob HarlowTotally. 

23:31 – Joran Hofman
Maybe to summarize what you’ve said, identifying the right customers to begin with, know their pain points, then of course find the right leads. You can use technology to find the right leads. Competitor, users, maybe relevant tools which they can use in conjunction with your tool. Use intent data, use thermographic data, set up things properly, technically. Make sure that you actually hit in the inbox be relevant. Make sure your messaging is going to relate to their pain points and then personalize. But don’t overdo it. Don’t give it fully to the AI. Treat it with caution. I think that is bit the summary of what you’ve been saying. 

24:09 – Rob Harlow
That’s probably better than I put it myself. Yeah. 

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How does the future of prospecting look like? 

24:53 – Joran Hofman
How would you look into the future of prospecting? How would you see what is going to change? How do you see the future of prospecting? 

25:00  – Rob Harlow
I think there’s two ways of looking at this. One is the technical and humans and inboxes will just get better at filtering. For all the reasons we spoke about, it’s going to make it even more important to get technical set up right. It’ll be even easier to destroy the reputation of a domain and more difficult to repair the damage done already. As you can imagine, we see lots and lots of cases where campaigns start off just not performing well and it’s because of previous damage that’s been done to a domain and it takes a lot of work to recover that. I think as automated spam filters become better, AI spam is filtering out, AI emails and again humans are just naturally looking identifying this, the technical side of it will get harder. So yeah, make the message count. Relevancy is key. Where the real future of Prospecting lies is looking at it as a multichannel edge. 

25:56  – Rob Harlow
Quite often Prospecting is looked at as a series of emails. Or sometimes there’s a LinkedIn connect thrown in there, but ultimately a fairly short lived campaign, something that might take a decent one. Email a week for four weeks in a month. That’s it. If the person you are contacting isn’t interested in your solution in that month, they’re potentially out of the campaign. Actually the best possible way to be managing prospect is to go beyond messaging. It might not be the right time for a number of reasons for that particular prospect, but if they are the right fit then chances are it will be the right time at some point. Remaining top of mind and layering intent data on top of your prospecting campaign is key. You might send those three or four initial introductory emails, but you don’t want to keep hassling someone who hasn’t replied. 

26:49 – Rob Harlow
However, if their company is growing or they are in the news for an award win, or they’re in the news for an acquisition or funding, what a great reason to reach out and automating those triggers is key mentioned about thermographic intent signals. Another really good reason to contact someone, whether congratulate them or just mention you’ve noticed this and first party intent data is essential as well. Yeah, what I mean by that is activity on your own website. There’s a huge amount of traffic from people who they might click on the email, have a look, and for whatever reason, they decide they don’t want to talk to you right now. And that’s okay. It could be for any number of reasons. But knowing that they clear is important. Knowing if someone comes back in two months time is even more important because it gives a really good reason to reach out. 

27:39  – Rob Harlow
IP tracking is a really important technology because again, often what we’ll see within all large companies, there’s very rarely one person involved in a B2B buying process, and actually that one email might get sent out to multiple different people who come and visit the website. Being able to attribute those website visits to the company, that’s being prospected, again, is essential in getting an overall view on the level of interest in the product that you’re offering and being able to follow up at the right time. 

28:09  – Joran Hofman
I think that’s key, right? You don’t have one person making the decision often to buy your tool. Figuring out which company actually visited your site and then see how they came to your site is going to be crucial. You can create, like a timeline and see exactly what have they been doing until they actually started to reach out to you. For example, because they don’t always respond to the email, but you can see exactly what have they been doing with the first party data you already have. Or the first party intent data, as you call it. 

28:37  – Rob Harlow
Exactly. It’s really just part about becoming where it’s much more about quality rather than quantity. It’s rarely about ramping up the number of emails you’re sending, it’s about nailing down who the right people you are that genuinely you solve problems for and tracking them along the process. Yeah, you can use a platform lookout based, but there are other platforms that will do that, but it’s what you do next that will really dictate the success of the prospecting campaign. 

29:04 – Joran Hofman
I think what you mentioned at the beginning, having a multichannel, you can definitely go just beyond messaging, right? You need to send them just a LinkedIn connection, which probably isn’t enough. You can also start creating custom audiences within platforms where you can actually bring your messaging also to them. Even though it might not be relevant, we email them, you could still show your brand along the way and they might think like, hey, I actually received an email way back, I’m going to respond, or they don’t respond to the email, but they will get in contact with you via any other route. So multichannel. 

29:40 – Rob Harlow
There’s an example of that. Two things we have in what we call internal beta. As you can imagine, our sales team are our best clients and any new features or new approaches, we test on them first and that’s what we call our internal beta station. Some of the things that we’re doing there is direct mail. Actually genuinely sending someone a letter or a promotion has a surprisingly good result. You mentioned it yourself about the display ads and we interact with a number of different display networks, whether we’re both social and some more typical display networks to show different ads to different audiences and also different audiences at different stages. We’re currently experimenting, testing showing a particular ad to someone who’s had a proposal sent to them to try and improve close rates and gifting is the final thing we’re testing where actually offering someone a free cup of coffee. 

30:30 – Rob Harlow
Or free lunch to enjoy whilst you have a meeting has a really positive impact on the thought traits and actually, even beyond the response rates, seems to be engendering a totally different type of conversation. There’s a much more positive approach to somebody sitting there with their free coffee when they meet you and it has a really noticeable impact on the close rates. All of these things are, I think that we expect to be building into the platform in the very near future. 

30:58 – Joran Hofman
I think you’re using some kind of psychology here as well because if you’re going to give something free at the beginning, you’re already creating some kind of win for that. Well, not a win, it’s more as in you’re giving something away where they’re more likely to have that conversation with you and they go in with a different mindset. Absolutely don’t. 

31:15  – Rob Harlow
I think the law of reciprocity exactly. 

Advice to founders growing to 10k MRR

31:18 – Joran Hofman
We are coming to the end. I always like to ask these two questions basically what kind of advice you would give in a certain stage? We talk about prospecting, what kind of advice would you give SaaS founders when they want to grow to ten k Monday recurring revenue for anyone. 

31:33 – Rob Harlow
At that kind of size, I always suggest do sales yourself. It’s so important at that stage to be talking to customers, getting the feedback, getting the reasons they want to buy, the reasons they don’t want to buy, and using that to not only inform your sales process, which is essential, but also just to inform your product strategy, because you can guarantee that 90% of what you think your customers want, Actually, they don’t. There are probably two or three features that you’ll get that feedback from customers that would make them buy and for me it’s one of the best ways to do it. The other reason for suggesting that at this stage is ultimately cash is important and at that very early stage it’s so much more important to prove your concept and make sure you can get beyond ten k MRL. If you can’t, then you’ve probably got a product market fit challenge rather than a sales one. 

Advice to founders growing to 1M ARR

32:25 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, and I think it’s going to help also with the next question I’m going to ask where you want to scale things up. By talking to the clients yourself, doing sales yourself, you will be identifying the right customers, knowing their pain points, so you can start scaling things in the next phase, which is what kind of advice would you give somebody who’s growing past that ten k monthly recurring revenue towards 1 million annual recurring revenue? 

32:49 – Rob Harlow
At this point, obviously, everything is totally different. We work with a number of early stage companies and as they start to build towards a million then really the founder and the CEO’s main role is to make themselves redundant from every process. Sales is no different. The most important part there is to have a repeatable sales process, something that can be documented torched to your sales team, ideally to a head of sales who is then managing your sales team. Ultimately you’re the recipient of the results as opposed to the person driving it. Equally predictability of sales is essential as well. As you start to reach those higher arr levels. Churn naturally becomes a bigger challenge because as a percentage, the number of people churning and you need to know that you’re predictably bringing enough customers in every single month that you can grow the sales team, grow that number, and that you’re not going to plateau your overall growth. 

Final thoughts

33:53 – Joran Hofman
I think that’s going to be really good forecasting is going to be really important, especially if you have investors, then you need to do it properly. Any final thoughts you want to share with other B2B SaaS founders? 

34:04 – Rob Harlow
The value of talking to your clients but also forming strong partnerships is essential. We, as part of the Sopro group, completely outside of outbase, we invest in a number of tech startups and there’s a lot of factors for failure, a lot of fake practice for success. One constant in all of those success factors is repeatable sales and really strong partnerships as well. That just set you up along the way. 

34:30 – Joran Hofman
Final question. If people want to get in contact with you, Rob, what would be the best way to do so? 

34:34 – Rob Harlow
My email is always wide open. As somebody who works an email at the Crazy Not To Be, which is [email protected]. But, yeah, I try and stay fairly active on LinkedIn, so it’s a social network. That would be the one. I’m always keen to have conversations with new people. https://www.linkedin.com/in/super-g33k/ 

34:50 – Joran Hofman
Nice. Thank you very much for coming. We’ll definitely make or share all the links related to what we discussed today. About the white paper, about your LinkedIn profile and of course, I won’t add your email in there, but people can find it now by in the transcript. Thanks again for coming on the show, Rob, and sharing knowledge today. 

35:08 – Rob Harlow
No worries. Thanks for the invite. 

35:10 – Joran Hofman
No worries. 

35:10 – Rob Harlow
See you later. 

Joran Hofman
Meet the author
Joran Hofman
Back in 2020 I was an affiliate for 80+ SaaS tools and I was generating an average of 30k in organic visits each month with my site. Due to the issues I experienced with the current affiliate management software tools, it never resulted in the passive income I was hoping for. Many clunky affiliate management tools lost me probably more than $20,000+ in affiliate revenue. So I decided to build my own software with a high focus on the affiliates, as in the end, they generate more money for SaaS companies.
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